/ / HAVE I EVOLVED AS A PARENT?

HAVE I EVOLVED AS A PARENT?

Sharing is caring!

This is a paid collaboration with Johnson & Johnson as a Johnson’s Baby Ambassador.  All of the words and opinions contained in this post are my own.

JOHNSONS AMBASSADORS JOHNSONS BABY UK

When I was asked as a Johnson’s Ambassador to write about how I’ve evolved as a parent, I was driving along after the second school run of the day, thinking of all the ways I changed from the girl I was before I had children, which are all the obvious, constantly spoken about ones [no time to myself, for myself, by myself, far less sleep than I ever thought I could survive on, isolated as soon as I left work], but then that’s not how I’ve evolved as a parent.

As a parent, I’ve changed more than I ever imagined – but it’s only upon considerable reflection that I realise it.  I’ve learned more about myself in eight years of parenting than I did in the 34 years before I had children.  That’s right, I was [and am] a geriatric mother.  At least I think that’s the lovely phrase that medical professionals use for us to make us feel cherished and glowing during pregnancy.  Like we’re somehow wrong for being older when we are lucky enough to become parents.  I hate that term.

Anyhow, changed I have.

Reflection

I never truly understood reflection before I became a parent.  People would talk about it, and I’d think it was some ridiculous, forced, pretentious practice and I had no need for it.  Like most things when it comes to parenting, it’s something I should never have judged, and the intense light-bulb-moment realisations I gain from reflection have hit me over the head like Thor’s hammer in recent years.  We’re talking thunderbolt moments.

My biggest area of evolution is that I’ve learned to own and accept who I am as a mother, and trust my maternal instincts.  I fully hold my hands up for each and every parenting decision I’ve made.  All of them.  No excuses for parenting paths I didn’t take.  This is me, and I am the sum of my parenting choices.  I’m a co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, cloth nappying, baby led weaning supporter.  I’m everything I never thought I would be and ecstatic about that – in hindsight.  Becoming that mother though, has taken time.

Strong To Become Gentle

We all know the “Mama Bear” we’re supposed to be when it comes to our own children, but becoming strong as a mom didn’t come easily to me.  I was suffering with undiagnosed Post Natal Depression [or so my doctor told me] and I was raising my first child without any support other than my husband as my family lived 137 miles away.  It was horrifically isolating and exhausting both mentally and physically as Jensen was what I look back on as a high maintenance baby.  He needed me constantly – and I was always there. Taking care of Jensen 24 hours a day without ever having a break for myself took its’ toll on my well being and one night, I was feeling extremely low, sat up with Jensen, suffering with a blocked duct. 

Trying to find answers to his lack of sleep, I came across a parenting book online about Night Time Parenting with a little part written by a well known doctor in the USA I’d vaguely heard of.  I was exhausted, teary, and thought that this feeling of failure as a parent was going to last forever.   The days carrying Jensen around constantly in my sling were long, but the nights lay next to him as he woke every 20 minutes, crying out until he settled again with my nipple in his mouth for comfort were longer, and I hated that I was wishing my baby’s time away. People in my life unhelpfully and at times rudely advised me to parent differently, to be more selfish with my time and my body – and so I hid away, tired of being told I was making a rod for my own back, and that my baby would grow up clingy and a momma’s boy.  I became more and more isolated and embarrassed about breastfeeding and would hide in filthy public toilets crouched in a cubicle to feed Jensen with the stench around us.  Whenever the subject of how Jensen was sleeping came up, I wanted to sob.  I was either told I needed to sleep train him, or let him cry it out because co-sleeping was peculiar and would kill him. So that night, desperate for a miracle to get Jensen to sleep, I read the book, learning nothing new – and then decided to read the additional words written by the Doctor, who was also a dad.  I cried. 

I sobbed my heart out and my body physically shook with relief. Written from the perspective of a newborn baby to its mother, it told me everything I felt in my heart as a mother when others told me I was being manipulated by my own baby.  That gentle is the right way and babies aren’t calculating, and that I could never cuddle mine too much when they cried.  It was beautiful and spoke of nothing but love and needing to be close to each other.  In that instant my life felt so much better – and I truly mean that – I can still remember the moment the black cloud lifted, and I still cry when I remember that moment. 

As soon as those words entered my head,  I held Jensen close and breathed him in.  I relaxed, and I stopped resenting him, and blaming him for what had seemingly become of my parenting decisions.  I became strong in my resolve to stay gentle.  It gave me a fire in my soul to defend my choices, because now I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did, and for the first time, we turned a corner and knew it was okay. 

Eight years on and it’s more than okay.  I know I made the right choices for my children, and none of them are clingy – although I am not fond of that term.  Wanting to be with people who love you isn’t something negative.

Babies Make The Best Teachers

When Jensen arrived, he was what I look back on as a high maintenance baby.  Most of the memories of how hard it was have faded, but I remember thinking I genuinely would not survive.  He cried when he wasn’t held – thanks to a vicious cycle of not being able to feed thanks to an ENORMOUS tongue tie that went completely undiagnosed, and him being unable to bring up the teeny bubbles in his tummy as bigger burps, then not wanting to feed much again.  He was awake every 20 minutes in the night and in the day snoozed only when attached to me.  I would look at people with school aged children and wonder if I would make it to that stage of his life alive. When he reached five months old, I was so sleep deprived that I fell asleep, stood up, sweeping the room.

So who did I think I was going to be as a parent?  Well, in February 2010, sat on a very large Swiss ball in the birthing room, hours before Jensen was born,  I was reading. Panicking. Going out of my mind between contractions, wondering how I was going to remember all of the prescribed routines that I needed to get my baby into if I was going to have a picture-perfect life with him.   I wish I was kidding. 

I was reading a book about a particular style of parenting that enforced what I knew about the behaviour of children from teaching them.  It was routines, strictness and everything was neat and pretty.  I like neat and pretty and I was so sure this was for me.  I should add at this point that my mother smiled and shook her head quite a bit when she thought I wasn’t looking as I would tell her about the books during my pregnancy.  Now she gets to use those four words no one likes to hear, “I told you so.”

By March 2010, my books were in the recycling.  I’d learned pretty swiftly that babies do not read books and do not care what an author with a million years’ experience of other people’s babies may state.  Babies are babies, and your baby is unique.

So, eight years down the line and here I am, ever evolving.

Evolving As A Parent

As my boys have grown up, the parent I need to be for them changes – when they were babies, I needed to be, and was, completely selfless.  I gave everything I had and more, because I knew if I didn’t, I would regret it.  All of my family have raised their children close to each other and had support, but being alone meant being with my babies 24 hours a day, every day.  It was incredibly isolating.  But I gave my body, and every second of my time to them.  I was the parent I needed to be.  And now, now they’re all a little older, I can take a little more time for myself, with a little less mom-guilt.

Competition

I also now care very little for discussing how other people raise their children.  Naturally I wouldn’t turn a blind eye if I met cruel or abusive parents – but breast, bottle, cloth diapers or disposable, co-sleepers or in a separate room from birth, I shudder at those kinds of conversations.  No parent has the right to voice their negative, hurtful opinions on another person’s parenting – simply because it’s none of their business, and we are all doing our best in a job with no manual.  So early or late walkers, talkers, vegetable dodgers or delighted foodies, I don’t care.

Talking

I believed, as a pre-parent, that my children needed to be raised oblivious to any conflict or issues in my life.  They would sail through childhood, thinking that the world is full of sunshine and bouncy castles, and I would keep my worries or problems inside.

Instead, I tell my boys the truth about how I’m feeling.  Throughout my life I’ve seen friends lose people to suicide and not had any idea that they were feeling so low, because they hadn’t spoken about their feelings with anyone, and never sought help.  My boys are the people I spend most of my life with and the people I speak the most with.   I want them to be able to speak to me openly, about anything, the way that I can with my own mom.  So when they ask me if I’m okay, I tell them if something is going wrong for me or I’m feeling resentful, grumpy, or whatever.  I want them to know it’s normal not to be on top of the world each and every moment of their lives – and understand that it’s okay too.

Reaching for the Stars

Although I do my best, my biggest realisation to come from parenting is that I will never be the parent I want so desperately to be.  I’m always learning.  Some days I wish I could rewind time and start again. But despite that, I still try.  I aim for that sparkly star and every night I climb into bed, especially when that day has been so trying, and I think of ways I can become a better mom.  That sounds so clichéd and cheesy, but it’s true.  This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I try so hard not to mess it up because raising children is the opportunity of a lifetime, a one time deal. So whilst I feel relatively comfortable in my role as Mom right now, and I feel I know who I am, I also know that there’s much unchartered territory ahead [three teenage boys].  I have lessons to learn and I’m sure times will become tough again – but I have the best, most beautiful boys as teachers, too. 


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *